For several months our 12-year-old daughter has had some behavior changes and last night told us that there are two girls who have been bullying her. We’ve never had to deal with this before. We don’t understand it and need some suggestions for how to help her.
According to the National Bullying Prevention Center nearly one-third of all school-aged children—over 12 million students– are bullied each year . . . and 64% of children who were bullied did not report it. Other research tells us that 160,000 children skip school each day because of intimidation by their peers. Another study reports that 77% of middle of high school students in small Midwestern towns have been bullied.
As your daughter has discovered, bullying is not isolated to any one gender, but gender does effect what it looks like. Boys who bully are more likely to make physical threats or be physically abusive. Girls are more likely to gossip, lie, spread rumors, ruin reputations, or encourage peers to shut someone out of the group.
Dr. Gabrielle Maxwell of NoBully, an organization that works to stop bullying in schools, says that bullying has three features: 1) It is hurtful and is done on purpose. 2) It is repeated. 3) It is difficult for those being bullied to stand up to their tormentors.
What can you do to help your daughter?
1) The most important thing is to be a loving, observant, prayerful and present parent. I’ve found that when parents spend time praying, playing, and talking with their kids then they are more likely to notice when something is changing and the kids are more likely to give some indication that something is wrong.
2) Go on-line and check out the abundance of helpful web-sites that that contain a lot of practical information on how to help kids deal with bullies.
3) Ask questions and then listen. Find out exactly the who, what, where, how, how long and when of the problem.
4) Talk to her teachers or administrators and get more information and some suggestions.
5) Get two or three other couples to pray with you and for you about the problem and what the best next steps might be.
If you are a reader whose child isn’t a victim of a bully but knows of someone who is, you can encourage them to reach out to that person. Standing up for others and putting a stop to bullying is everyone’s responsibility. It’s consistent with what Christ said in Matthew 25:40, “What you have done for one of the least of these my brothers you have done it unto me.”